The New Three-Second Rule

My husband’s aunt was a fastidious lady. Today she’d be called a germaphobe. Each night she’d clean her kids’ toys with boric acid to make sure they were germ free and could carry nothing infectious.

I’ve never been quite that way. With our kids–really, with anyone’s kids–I’ve always maintained a three-second rule. If food falls to the floor, if it can be grabbed in three seconds, nothing of consequence could possibly attach itself to said food.

Unless the floor is in the bathroom. Or a public area. Or outside where dogs do their thing.

Lately I’ve heard new perspectives on the three-second rule. The one that intrigued me had to do with words. Responding to people. Waitingimgres three seconds to say anything so that verbal vomiting could be avoided and hurtful things could be minimized.

Same idea. Different dirt.

That sounds so good to me.

I’ve got lots of words. More, I believe, than is my share. There’s a part of me that absorbs others’ excess verbage to store in my daily word allotment. Especially my husband. Through the years, he’s given me custody of his excess words so I now have enough for two people.

So I mentioned to John that I liked the idea of trying to wait three seconds before making a comment or answering to avoid the waterfall of words that I actually dump on him on any given day.

He was in full agreement.

And it worked. For five minutes.

We were heading to an apartment complex to meet with some friends. The gate is a persnickity thing. Because our friends don’t have a code that works, we either had to wait till someone drove in ahead of us, sneaking in behind them, or park outside the complex and walk in.

A car had just entered through the gate. Hang the three seconds.

“Step on it! If you get in NOW the sensor will stop the gate! You won’t get hit! Trust me! I’ve done this!”

The rapid-fired words shot out repeatedly as John slowed down. I got louder. He stopped. The gate closed. I glared.

unnamedAnd he held up three fingers. Katniss Everdeen style.

I wanted to chew off those fingers.

“What happened to three seconds?”

I could have cared less about three seconds. He hadn’t heard me.

As is often the case when my mouth hijacks my brain for control.

I have a trigger-finger reflex when it comes to replying to something that bugs me or I don’t agree with. In those moments, I rarely think through what I’m going to say. I often feel bad about the words that do issue forth from my mouth. Thinking takes time.

Jesus’ heart is that I’d think about my words.

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”  Ephesians 4:29

If I thought about what I’d say before I said it, I’d spend less time apologizing for misspoken words and more time encouraging people.

How much more enjoyable would it be to give gifts of words rather than terrorize with tirades.

That’s worth thinking about–maybe for more than three seconds.

First photo courtesy of







6 responses to “The New Three-Second Rule”

  1. An Irish friend of ours is married to a man with a …get this….7 second response time. (Speaking hastily is rarely a problem for him.) As for his wife and the rest of humanity, your article has given us subject matter enough to occupy us for the rest of our lives. Many thanks.


    1. Why does it always have to be waiting? Why can’t it be something else–like open pores or bad hair? Those are issues, too–but they don’t freak my husband out like my words.


  2. I will have to say Dayle, that John and me and you and Curt – prevail here! But I do have to go with your reminder from Ephesians 4:29 to watch the way I talk and look to HIM for what comes out of my mouth!


    1. We really do need to get together for coffee!


  3. Why do you have to convict me so before my 2nd full cup of coffee? Joe and John are as much alike here as you and I are. 3 seconds can seem like 4 blondes at a 4 way stop (eternity!) when I have sooooo much to say!


    1. We are birds of a feather–or blondes of a head! Love you!


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